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Imperial halts $1.2 billion in Alberta investment – Western Standard

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The murder rate in Seattle has soared to its highest level in a decade – as the city council approved cutting the police budget by nearly 20 per cent.

Council members voted overwhelmingly to cut funds for police training and overtime and to eliminate dozens of vacant positions within the Seattle Police Department after months of contentious talks.

The cut will amount to 18 per cent.

That falls well short of the 50 per cent local activists demanded amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis protesters burned down a police precinct building and set up the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone, which sought to operate on Marxist-Leninist principles.

At least 31 people were arrested at the CHAZ zone and crime rose by more than 500 per cent in just over three weeks. 

Thousands of protesters – many hailing from the far-left ANTIFA terrorist organization – took over the six-square block area of Seattle, where no police officers were allowed.

The commune quickly run out of food, putting out a plea for “vegan meat alternatives” and other soy-based food donations.

They had a list of demands, including the “abolition” of the Seattle Police Department and its attached court system, free college for all people in the state, as well as “the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking, but especially the abolition of both youth prisons and privately-owned, for-profit prisons.”

The streets were controlled by a hip hop artist-turned-warlord by the name of Raz Simone, who established an armed private police force that does did hesitate to dole out beatings to communal scofflaws.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan engaged in a war of words over the Zone.

“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump warned Durkan and Washington state governor Jay Inslee – both Democrats – in a tweet, calling the protesters “domestic terrorists” who have taken over Seattle.

“This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped (sic) IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST,” he said in another tweet.

Durkan replied, telling Trump to “go back to his bunker” a reference to when Trump sheltered in the White House bunker after D.C protests and riots got too close.

Inslee tweeted: “A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. ‘Stoop’ tweeting.”

Two people – including a 16-year-old boy – were shot and killed around CHAZ – with police finally moving in on July 1st and cleared up the area.

Seattle’s city council also decided to transfer parking enforcement officers, mental health workers and 911 dispatchers out of the police department.

“I believe we are laying the groundwork to make systemic and lasting changes to policing,” Mayor Jenney Durkan said in a statement.

Durkan will sign the police cut order this week.

“We have rightly put forward a plan that seeks to ensure SPD has enough officers to meet 911 response and investigative needs throughout the city, while acknowledging and addressing the disproportionate impacts policing has had on communities of colour, particularly Black communities,” she said.

“I applaud the City Council for taking a more deliberate and measured approach to the 2021 Seattle Police Department budget than occurred this summer which led to the resignation of former SPD Chief Carmen Best.”

Former Seattle police chief Carmen Best

The budget will spend up to $100 million for projects in communities of colour and the hiring of 100 police officers in 2021.

The budget moves come as the Seattle marked the 55th murder of the year Monday.

The city had 28 homicide victims last year and 32 in 2018.

Burglaries are also up. There have been 8,418 burglary incidents, compared to 7,634 in 2019.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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A classic investing read for summer (psst … it’s free) – The Globe and Mail

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Is there a good book you recommend for retail investors? I have read several that explain how markets and trading work, but I have found very few that discuss the strategies one should use to invest profitably. One of the hardest decisions I have is when to sell, since if I don’t have extra cash the only way to buy another stock is to sell something first.

As I discussed in a recent column, I’m not a fan of trying to create wealth by trading. Instead, I believe in building a diversified portfolio of solid companies, or exchange-traded funds, and holding them for the long run. Focusing on stocks that raise their dividends regularly has worked well for me, as a growing payout is usually a sign of a healthy company and provides a powerful incentive to stay invested instead of constantly trading in and out.

When I was starting out, one of the most influential books I read was Lowell Miller’s The Single Best Investment: Creating Wealth with Dividend Growth. It is an engaging and accessible read that will not only give you the tools to identify great dividend stocks, but will help you deal with the 24/7 onslaught of market noise that often leads small investors astray.

I’m not exaggerating when I say the book might very well change how you think about investing.

As Mr. Miller, the founder and now-retired chief investment officer of Miller/Howard Investments, writes in the book’s introduction:

“Investing isnʼt some athletic event where agility and flashes of virtuosity are the secrets of success. Rather, investing really is investing – the methodical accumulation of capital through a sensible and disciplined plan which recognizes that ‘shares’ are not little numbers that jump around in the paper every day.

“They represent a partnership interest in a real and going business. Your plan, very simply, must recognize that you will manage your investments by actually being an investor – a passive partner in a real and going business.”

Even though it’s a U.S. book and the latest edition was published in 2006, the principles are still relevant to Canadian investors. Here’s the best part: The book is now available as a free PDF download from Miller/Howard’s website at: bit.ly/SingleBestInvest.

Prefer a hard copy? Check online or at your local library.


In The Single Best Investment, Lowell Miller writes that a company’s bonds should have a Standard & Poor’s credit rating of BBB+ or better – considered “investment grade” – to qualify as a suitable stock. Is the bond rating something you consider when buying a stock for your model portfolio? Is there an easy way to check this for individual companies in Canada? I have tried scrolling through lists of bonds in my brokerage account but I can’t seem to find bond ratings for individual companies.

Yes, I consider the credit rating when buying stocks personally and in my model Yield Hog Dividend Growth Portfolio (tgam.ca/dividendportfolio). A lousy credit rating indicates that a company could have trouble meeting its obligations, and in such cases the dividend is often the first casualty. For that reason, I usually stay away from companies whose bonds are rated as “speculative,” or below investment grade.

Mr. Miller’s minimum credit rating is slightly more stringent than the common definition of investment grade, which includes anything rated BBB- or higher by Standard & Poor’s. According to S&P, companies in the BBB family generally have “adequate capacity to meet financial commitments, but [are] more subject to adverse economic conditions” than those rated A, AA or AAA. (Fitch and DBRS use a similar letter rating system as S&P, while Moody’s defines investment grade as anything rated Baa3 or higher on its scale.)

(One exception to the investment grade rule in my model portfolio is Restaurant Brands International Inc., whose debt is rated BB by S&P. However, the agency recently upgraded the owner of Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes to “stable” from “negative,” saying it expects a continued rebound in sales and profitability as the pandemic recedes and the company opens more franchised restaurants. So I’m comfortable giving Restaurant Brands some slack on its credit rating.)

There are several ways to find a company’s credit ratings. One is to check the investor relations section of its website. A Google search of “BCE credit rating,” for example, brought up a company web page with all of BCE Inc.’s bond, commercial paper and preferred share credit ratings from S&P, Moody’s and DBRS. BCE and other companies typically provide additional credit rating information and analysis in their annual reports.

Another option is to go directly to the credit rating agencies themselves. For example, the DBRS website – dbrsmorningstar.com – lets you search for a company and read detailed reports about its recent credit rating changes or confirmations. This will give you an even deeper understanding of the company’s financial position and outlook. S&P and Moody’s also make credit reports available, but you’ll need to register to get access.

E-mail your questions to jheinzl@globeandmail.com. I’m not able to respond personally to e-mails but I choose certain questions to answer in my column.

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

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Condo Smarts: Existing condominium buildings can be good investment – Times Colonist

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Dear Tony: We are retiring this year and considering downsizing to a condo. We have started looking at both new and existing properties around Vancouver and Victoria, but we encounter challenges with both options.

New developments are often available only through presales and the time periods for completion would require us to sell, rent until the property is ready, and with few assurances of completion dates would require us to move twice with no guarantees how the properties would be managed or how fees would be structured for long term operations.

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Existing buildings are more attractive; however, we find most properties are sold within days of listing, and there appears to be more of a concern by realtors to keep strata fees low rather than looking at the age of the buildings and the long-term maintenance to protect owner investments.

Are there any standards or consumer rules we might consider following? As new buyers into a condo lifestyle we would like to avoid a sinking investment.

Karyn and Jerry W.

There are many existing buildings and communities that are an excellent investment. They are easily identified by reviewing the financial reports, investments, a depreciation report completed by a qualified consultant or reserve planner, and by reviewing the minutes of the strata corporation to identify how they address maintenance, planning and funding for the future.

While every building has different amenities, staffing and servicing requirements, an annual budget that identifies all the service contracts for maintenance and operations is a significant asset. An active use of the depreciation report to plan for future renewals and major maintenance components is a healthy indication of a well managed property.

Low strata fees are problematic for strata corporations as they often indicate a community dependent on special levies. Special levies require a 3/4 vote of owners at general meetings and many owners vote against a special levies generally due to affordability issues. The result of failed special levies is deferred repairs that will only rise in cost and damages, and the potential for court actions or CRT orders.

There is also a direct link between low strata fees, deferred maintenance and renewals, and higher risks for insurers. This results in higher insurance rates and deductibles for strata corporations.

Buyers should always request copies of depreciation reports, any engineering and environmental reports, minutes of annual meetings, the bylaws and rules of the property, copy of the strata insurance policy, and a Form B Information Certificate, which will also identify any courts actions or decisions against the strata corporation. Read all documents and discuss any issues with your realtor and lawyer. This should help separate the well managed buildings vs the buildings at risk.

New construction in some ways is easier to manage as the strata corporation is enabled to make the right decisions that will impact funding and future operations. Owners can have a direct effect on their investments by joining and supporting the newly formed strata council and making decisions that ensure a well funded and planned operations plan.

Strata fees for new properties often start low in the first year as there are service contracts included with the new construction that are included in the warranty period and some developers will entice buyers with low costs. Plan on an increase of fees once all units are occupied and the strata corporation is fully serviced for operations and maintenance.

This may be impacted by insurance costs, staffing, and consulting for warranty inspections, legal services and the management of warranty claims, the commissioning of a deprecation report, and operational requirements.

Every building, which consists of endless components, will have failures. The effective management and planning of those issues when they arise is the true test of a well managed property. Product failures and installations are often beyond anyone’s control; however, a well funded property will also be able to respond without a significant crisis for owners.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association.

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Goldman and DWS prepare bids for NN Investment Partners – Financial Times

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Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Germany’s DWS are preparing bids for NN Group’s investment management arm as consolidation in the industry gathers pace.

The Dutch insurer said in April it was considering a sale of NN Investment Partners, which has €300bn in assets under management.

The deadline for final binding offers is Monday. GSAM, which has more than $2tn in assets under supervision, and Frankfurt-based DWS are still in the sale process and preparing bids, said people familiar with the situation.

The deal price is in the region of €1.4bn, one of the people said. NN Group, GSAM and DWS declined to comment.

UBS Asset Management, Janus Henderson and US insurer Prudential Financial are among those to have previously registered their interest. All three declined to comment.

Investment managers globally are embarking on mergers and acquisitions designed to shield profits from rising costs and falling fees, while seeking to tap into fast-growing markets such as passive investing, private assets and ESG, and open up new distribution channels.

“The competitive environment for traditional active asset managers has intensified and a smaller group of larger players are now dominating the institutional segment,” said Vincent Bounie, senior managing director at Fenchurch Advisory, a specialist investment bank for financial services.

“It has become complicated to grow and very difficult to have a profitable business, in particular if you have undifferentiated plain vanilla products.”

Asoka Woehrmann, chief executive of DWS, which is majority owned by Deutsche Bank, told shareholders at the €820bn group’s annual meeting last month that it wanted to be “an active player” in industry consolidation. It is seeking further scale to challenge rival Amundi for supremacy in Europe.

Meanwhile for insurance companies, a prolonged period of low interest rates and higher capital requirements under Solvency II rules is prompting groups to weigh up where they allocate their capital, Bounie said. “For many of them, subscale asset management divisions are no longer core activities and there will probably be more divestments.”

NN Group, which is based in The Hague, came under pressure last year from activist hedge fund Elliott Management to improve returns and streamline its operations. It said in April it was considering options including a merger, joint venture or a partial divestment of the division.

NN Investment Partners has about 950 employees. Of its €300bn in assets under management, two-thirds is managed on behalf of its insurance parent company with the remaining third run for external investors.

The division’s range of funds covers fixed income, equity, multi-asset and alternative investment strategies. It has a strong position in ESG investing, notably in areas such as green bonds, impact equity and sustainable equity.

Additional reporting by Ian Smith in London

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